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PRRS Costs Run Higher Than Expected

New research shows the cost of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) to the Canadian swine industry is far greater than previously known.

An analysis by the George Morris Centre estimates PRRS costs the industry at least $130 million a year and possibly higher.

The finding could point to the need for a national strategy to control PRRS in Canada’s swine herd, according to the Guelph-based agricultural think-tank.

Al Mussell, a senior research associate, presented preliminary results to a recent meeting of the Canadian Swine Health Board in Quebec City. A final analysis is expected by late November.

Canada’s PRRS losses appear to be proportionately much higher than in the United States, where the swine herd is about 10 times bigger. An Iowa State University puts annual U.S. losses to PRRS at $550 million.

But Mussell warned against making comparisons since his analysis takes related factors into consideration which the Iowa study doesn’t.

Besides mortalities, Mussell’s study also measures variable losses resulting from poorer average daily weight gains, more days on feed, delays in emptying barns, etc.

Mussell couldn’t say if his analysis will result in a recommendation for a national PRRS control program. Right now, he is just collecting data.

“At the end of the day, it’s about providing the industry with the best possible information we can to make decisions.”

But Mussell said PRRS is a sensitive matter, especially in Western Canada, where producers fear it could become a trade issue.

If the U.S. gets PRRS under control and Canada does not, American industry forces could lobby for import restrictions on Canadian pigs, he said.

PRRS is a viral disease of pigs which was first identified in the U.S. in late 1980s and has since spread to other countries, including Canada.

It was at first referred to as a mystery disease because it did not appear to have an obvious cause.

Symptoms in farrowing sows include loss of appetite, a reluctance to drink and respiratory signs. PRRS can result in lower farrowing rates, increased abortions and stillbirths and generally poor reproduction. Piglets may have diarrhea and respiratory infections.

PRRS is a complex disease which can be very difficult to eliminate from herds. Although the virus appears to spread rapidly, it may take months to become established in a herd. Once embedded, PRRS can take even longer to eradicate. Sometimes it may go away only to reappear later for no apparent reason.

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